Thursday, October 4, 2018

Glad Tidings - Vol III

Today's round of peplum-flavored beefcake comes from the 1957 film The Goddess of Love, which starred buxom and beautiful British starlet Belinda Lee, stationing herself in Italy for a time to get away from some of the tarty parts she'd done in which unkind comparisons to Diana Dors were drawn. Most of the skin, apart from hers, that appears in Goddess belongs to one Jacques Sernas, who had just the year before portrayed the headstrong, lovestruck Paris in Helen of Troy (1956.)
The film begins with Sernas emerging from the ocean after a swim. He, a Macedonian, and a few of his countrymen are then attacked by some Greek soldiers.
Shot in the calf with an arrow, he is eventually dropped from his horse into the sand along the shoreline.
He briefly awakens to the vision of a beautiful female frolicking in the surf, but soon passes out again.
He is next seen recovering in a bed within a palatial house in the hills.
He awakens again to the sight of a beautiful young woman, but again before it can really register, she is gone again!
Much of the first 20 minutes of the movie seems to be devoted to shooting Sernas' barely-clothed body in widescreen (Totalscope) in a variety of poses!
We soon discover that Sernas is being cared for by a famous Grecian sculptor, Massimo Girotti, and his curvaceous model, Belinda Lee.
Girotti wonders if one of his big phallic statuettes might aid Sernas in his recovery (!) - I am not making this up...
Sernas achingly shuffles out of bed in order to look for something he's interested in.
Girotti realizes that it's his sword he's after and so he gives it to him.
The two then share a friendly chat while Sernas feasts on the spread that his host has put out for him. (Sernas, in some long shots and in this outfit, almost resembles the first blond Tarzan Lex Barker.
The Greek soldiers are still hunting him down and they come to Girotti's house to search every room. Lee, who has by now grown fond of her patient, distracts the soldier with a little topless action, which Sernas is also treated to as he hides behind a curtained alcove.
Needless to say, he is quite taken with his makeshift nursemaid.
Girotti is currently using Lee as a model for his latest masterwork, a large statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
He (who is secretly in love with her quite deeply) promises Lee immortality through her participation in his sculpture.
Sernas has designs on her himself, however, and begins to pour on the charm in order to win her heart.
Once the bandages are off, he's ready to rock 'n roll again!
After joining her for a rather perilous swim in the rocky surf (which the actors appear to be doing themselves!)...
...the two salt-soaked sweethearts finally take the plunge and explore their affection for one another.
There's a fly in the ointment, however. The strapping soldier who once saw Lee in a topless state has designs on her himself. He arranges with no small amount of determination to have dinner at Girotti's place where he and his band of merry men can glimpse this statuesque beauty.
Now in a pique because he knows that she's in love with Sernas, Girotti sells her out and informs the Greeks that she is in love with... gasp! ...a Macedonian! He then tries to weasel out of it by pretending that Sernas is long gone, but...
...when the soldier tries to get too familiar with Lee, Sernas springs on him and the two wrestle and spar to the death.
The already rather homoerotic tussle is overseen by a nude male statue whose genitals have been discreetly draped over with a piece of blue fabric! (Most of the female statuary is permitted to be seen in all its labial glory...!)
Sernas is able to defeat the hunky soldier with a knife to the shoulder blade (and a shin the groin, apparently!)
Lee's problems are far from over, however. She and Sernas flee, but he is slain by the arrow of another Greek soldier and before long she is approached by a rather icky older man who wants to marry her only to drive Girotti crazy.
Unable to face that situation, she instead turns to prostitution (!) for a jewelry-clad madam, servicing various soldiers in a grimy tavern. One night, she sees one who reminds her of Sernas and is about to take him upstairs when Girotti suddenly appears.
He is stunned to see his inspiration for the "goddess of love" toiling away as a whore with scads of swarthy men and tries to take her away with him.
She runs outside to a fabric merchant who had previously offered to take her as his own and four of his diaper-clad workmen load her onto the wagon, but when Girotti protests, he is beaten up by the quartet of brutes.
Soon after, the area is overrun by Macedonians and a group of them enter Girotti's estate and slay him en masse. (Ain't there anyone here for love?!)
Lee is helping to entertain these same soldiers and is stunned to hear them brag of killing her onetime benefactor. She departs for his home, to see what has happened. (By the way, the gents outnumber the ladies here by one...)
...and during this scene, one of them seems to be offering another a bite of his apple... or something!
Back at Girotti's house, Lee is staggered to find that Sernas is, in fact, alive, and had been lingering after the battle to see if he could locate her! She's had a few miles put on her chassis since they first fell for one another, but he convinces her that they can put all that behind them and begin anew...

And now a few bonus pics and factoids...!

Young Sernas had already endured enough drama for two lifetimes by the time his acting career dawned. Born in Lithuania to one of that country's leaders, his father died when he was one and his mother raised him in France. During WWII, he fought in the French Resistance and was captured and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp! He entered movies in 1946 and was brought to Warner Brothers a decade later for Helen of Troy.
His time in America was short, however, and he was soon back in Europe filming roles in which his costumes were often smaller than his leading ladies' and in some cases his makeup heavier! He ended a sixty-year acting career with a role in Pope John Paul I: The Smile of God (2006) and passed away in 2015 just weeks before his ninetieth birthday.
In his day, Italian actor Girotti was also one very handsome man. Having entered the movies in 1940, he was already making a mark by 1943 with Ossessione, a smoldering drama based on James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice.  He worked for many of Italy's most notable directors while also portraying numerous heroic figures like Spartacus and Sebastian in the sword & sandal epics of the time.
Other films include Senso (1954), Teorema (1968) - in which he was seduced by Terence Stamp, Medea (1969) - opposite Maria Callas, and Last Tango in Paris (1972.) He died in 2003 at age eighty-four of a heart attack, having starred that same year in Facing Windows.
Lee was but twenty-two when she filmed Goddess of Love and had been married since 1954 to a Rank Organization photographer. While in Italy, though, she fell in love with a married papal prince and their affair was a major scandal. Both of them attempted suicide and he lost his title from the Pope over it all.
Having made a huge splash as a peroxide blonde babe with endless photos of her in circulation, many taken by her husband, she had to struggle for legitimacy as an actress. Two years after her 1959 divorce, she joined her newest love, Italian playboy and producer Gualtiero Jacopetti, in Las Vegas where he was making a saucy documentary. En route to Los Angeles, the speeding driver lost control of their car and she perished from a fractured skull and broken neck. She was only twenty-five years of age.
The End!


Alan Scott said...

I may have to watch Teorema now!

Gingerguy said...

What a tawdry tale Poseidon, I loved it. This flick sure had way more plot going on than most in that genre. Only matched by the real life trials and tribulations of it's cast. I chuckled in the first paragraph, as Diana Dors always got such bad reviews that I can't imagine what a bad comparison to her would be like. Both women are gorgeous. She actually reminds me a little more of Mamie Van Doren if I had to compare her to anyone.
His pompadour isn't exactly historically accurate, but maybe he used "ancient grease" in his hair.
I am familiar with many sex symbols of this period but had never heard of Brenda Lee. The brevity of her career and life probably had something to do with that, what a story! Very, very interesting. Thanks for this.

Trippy Trellis said...

Brenda "I'm Sorry" Lee was, along with Connie Francis, the top female pop singer of the late '50s/early '60s.

Poseidon3 said...

Hello, my loves. I've been out of touch lately and for that you have my apologies. I do have something fun cooking that I hope will be ready for your perusal soon (and more to come after that if I can just find the time!)

Alan, I've never seen Teorema myself, though I've always wanted to. I don't think it's particularly explicit, but perhaps it has an interestingly perverse storyline (and Stamp is almost always worth seeing!)

Gingerguy, I loved the "ancient grease" remark! LOL I don't know if Diana was truly not so great in her early days and then came into her own later or if she was good, but no one bothered to notice (I've seen precious little of her early output), but I do know that as she matured, she gave so many captivating performances!! I love seeing her. I just watched her the other day in a supporting role in "Danger Route" and she was pretty much the best thing in the film. And as an older woman, she had a terrifically ebullient personality on chat shows and the like.

Trippy, yes, I'm sure Gingerguy meant Belinda Lee, not Brenda Lee... I only mentioned Belinda's name once at the beginning and then - as is my usual method - referred to her as Lee the rest of the way, so it can get confusing to recall sometimes. :-) Thanks!